Actor Athiya Shetty entered the film industry with Hero (2015) produced by Salman Khan. Adhyayan Suman is the son of host-actor Shekhar Suman.
Actor Athiya Shetty entered the film industry with Hero (2015) produced by Salman Khan. Adhyayan Suman is the son of host-actor Shekhar Suman.

Nepotism didn’t help us in our Bollywood journey: Sikandar Kher, Adhyayan Suman, Vardhan Puri bring out the other side of the debate

Star kids say a film industry background may guarantee an easy access and headstart, but not a smooth sailing career and success atthe box office.
Hindustan Times | By Rishabh Suri, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2020 11:57 PM IST

The nepotism debate rages on, but the box office has always shown there’s only one arbiter of an actor’s fate: the audience. While some star kids such as Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt and Kareena Kapoor Khan or Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sara Ali Khan from the younger lot made it big in films, for many others their film backgrounds didn’t translate into showbiz success.

For instance, Harman Baweja, son of producer Harry Baweja, was launched in Love Story 2050 (2008), and went on to do Victory and What’s Your Rashee? (both 2009), but didn’t find commercial success. Sooraj Pancholi, son of actor Aditya Pancholi, and Athiya Shetty, daughter of actor Suniel Shetty, were launched by actor Salman Khan in Hero (2015), but don’t have a big hit in their kitty yet.

Adhyayan Suman, son of actor-host Shekhar Suman, debuted with Haal-e-Dil (2008), got some success with Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009), but then his career hit a low. “I was talking to dad about this, this debate is wrong. It is actually groupism,” he says,” adding, “As even Sushant (Singh Rajput) said, the problem is only when star kids are being pushed ahead. My point is if that was the case, we wouldn’t have Ayushmann Khurrana or Rajkummar Rao. And Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan — they must have got it easy for a couple of years, but if today, someone tells me Ranbir is not a good actor, I will slap them. They have the X-factor.”


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Sikandar Kher, son of actors Kirron Kher and Anupam Kher, doesn’t deny the existence of nepotism, but feels hard work triumphs.

“When I go and ask for work, I’ll get a meeting with filmmakers. Millions come to the industry, they might never get one. But everyone I met hasn’t given me work. I don’t think anybody is going to put money on you just because you are somebody’s son or daughter, it’s a business. My first film Woodstock Villa (2008) was offered to me by Sanjay Gupta. That is probably because of where I come from. But as you go on, you just work at it,” he tells us.

Pranutan, daughter of actor Mohnish Bahl and granddaughter of yesteryear star Nutan, was also launched by Salman, in Notebook (2019), but it didn’t do well. Bahl says his daughter bagged the film on her own. “People say ‘Salman ki dosti hai’, they don’t want to believe that,” he says, adding that Pranutan has bagged another film, Helmet, and auditions even today.


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Late actor Amrish Puri’s grandson Vardhan didn’t have it easy either. “I was young when my grandfather passed away. When I wanted to start as an assistant director, I had nobody to make calls for me. I gave 25-50 interviews, till I met Aditya Chopra and begged him for a job,” says the actor, who made his film debut with Yeh Saali Ashiqui (2019) and even though film bombed at the box office, his performance was appreciated..

Agrees Mustafa, son of filmmaker Abbas of the Abbas-Mastan duo, who debuted with Machine in 2017, but didn’t strike gold. “It doesn’t help being the child of a famous parent. The audience makes you what you are,” he says.


Trade expert Atul Mohan feels it all boils down to talent. “If talent wasn’t there, Ranbir wouldn’t have got a chance after Saawariya (2007). The one place where industry insiders are lucky is they get more chances after their first film doesn’t work. But there are examples who didn’t click after many chances,” he says.

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh shares there were star kids in the 1970s and 80s too, whose connections didn’t help. “Eventually, all boils down to content. With Deewana (1992), Shah Rukh Khan became an overnight sensation. When you walk into a theatre, it’s for what the story offers,” he says.

Actor Sonu Sood, a rank outsider, sums it up: “When you have connections, a launch is guaranteed. I didn’t have that privilege, my son will. But only talent will make them survive and if that’s not there, no matter how big a star kid you are, you are not going to survive.”

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